Saturday, October 27, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Human Ladders

One of the greatest joys of teaching is that, from time to time, we receive letters from former students, expressing gratitude that we taught them to write, expanded their perceptions, or offered a skill set that has been useful to them since. Without exception, we take great pride when this happens and we applaud our students' success. Probably also without exception, we have sent such letters ourselves. Make no mistake, however: in the ideology of Romney or Ryan, no such gratitude is in order. Successful people have become successful entirely alone because of an innate and extraordinary ability to self-realize. There is no regard for parents or grandparents who could contribute the bulk of their life savings to a young person's college education and still maintain the security of a pension and social security and affordable health care. There is no regard for federal, state or local programs that afforded training or education to those whose parents had no life savings. There is no regard for the police officer whose beat was the neighborhood where they went to school, lived, or started their first business. There is no regard for the firefighters who kept the blaze from spreading. There is no regard for the regulation that protected the working or middle class from which many successful people have emerged. There is no regard for the blood and sweat of those who fought and continue to fight for social equality and social justice. No, these people are all of a class of servants, who, lacking the innate and extraordinary self-realizing ability of the materially successful, exist only as human ladders, and are deserving of nothing. These programs, the hideous result of white liberal guilt. If you’re behind Romney and Ryan, for the love of all that’s holy, think of your grandparents if not of your children.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Louisiana Spends More on Juvenile Justice Than Three Other States Spend

and, apparently, our legislators are angry about that:

From TP:

Louisiana lawmakers question youth prison costs
by The Associated Press Thursday April 09, 2009, 7:27 AM
BATON ROUGE -- Figures that show Louisiana pays well above several other Southern states to imprison its juvenile offenders prompted angry complaints from state lawmakers.
Louisiana spends more than $115,000 annually for each one, compared to $70,000 in Florida, $85,000 in Alabama and $34,000 in Arkansas. That's according to information provided Wednesday to the House Appropriations Committee by its budget analyst.
Lawmakers say the Office of Juvenile Justice seems to have too many employees at its three youth prisons. They also criticized plans to make budget cuts by eliminating prevention programs.
The head of the youth services office, Mary Livers, says she's working to improve efficiencies in her agency and to cut costs.
Last we heard, the Louisiana Legislature was closing Jetson Center for Youth in Baton Rouge and issuing a sort of gentleperson's agreement to establish "13 or 14" more regional rehabilitation centers modeled after Missouri's vastly more effective juvenile justice system. Now, the Louisiana Legislature is offended by the amount that the state spends per resident in a system that is ostensibly intended to rehabilitate young people sentenced to the inadequate number of centers we do have. This turnabout alone is enough to make the head spin.

In addition, it's hard to determine whether The Times Picayune or the legislators, or both, have now opted to term youth detention centers, or centers for youth, "youth prisons." But whoever is making this conceptual error should stop. There is supposed to be no such thing as a "youth prison" in the U.S. to start with, and that's a fact I'm appalled to have to remind anybody of.

Furthermore, that we spend more than Florida, Alabama, or Arkansas, is hardly anything to be ashamed of, now is it? I take it we don't spend more than Missouri, the state with the model we're supposed to be emulating.

This type of uncritical knee-jerk reporting and legislating is certainly living up to Louisiana's reputation as a backward state. Perhaps one way of cutting costs is to lower the number of youth detainees, now "prisoners," by ceasing to incarcerate so many young people for victimless offenses such as possession of marijuana. But this article gives so little information that it's impossible to get any sense of what exactly the legislators' complaints are. Here's another case in which there's no reflection on the idea that social spending is problematic in and of itself and that young people who get locked up for whatever reason are undeserving of anything.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jindal's Budget: Bait and Switch

From Times Picayune:
To keep the budget in balance, the administration is proposing to use $943 million of the estimated $3.6 billion Louisiana will receive from the federal stimulus bill. The remaining stimulus money would be used in the following fiscal year. Most of the stimulus money would be used to offset cuts in health care and higher education.

If you can explain this refusal to spend even 1/3 of the stimulus money this year, please do. The purpose of the stimulus package is to revive the economy now so that it does not continue to spiral downward for years to come. Jindal makes the competing claims that the stimulus money must be reserved because the economy will continue to spiral downward for years to come and that the stimulus bill is ill-conceived because the economy will quickly recover on its own. Which is it?

In addition, the budget above is a bait and switch. It claims to use stimulus money for health care and higher education, yet deeply cuts those services simultaneously. The result is a devastating 5% cut from this year's starvation budget for health care and 10% from higher education. The result is closing of health facilities, reduction in Medicaid payments, higher class sizes and fewer course offerings at state colleges and universities, long-term layoffs and hiring freezes, as well as tuition hikes.
Jindal said the stimulus money is intended as a "bridge" as Louisiana downsizes state government after several years of rapid growth.

"The federal funds don't remove the need to make reforms. They give us time to make reforms, " Jindal said.
Again, Jindal finds self-evident the claim that growth in "state government" (i.e., education and health care) is problematic. He also continues to refer to the renewal of state services decimated by Katrina as "rapid growth."
Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said the budget reductions are intended to lay the groundwork for even deeper reductions in the years ahead, when federal stimulus dollars disappear. "The next three years are going to be very challenging, " Levine said. "We've got to make policy decisions today that decrease our cost structure overall."
Yet again, we're confronted with the rationale that we should not use the stimulus money now because it will disappear later, beyond three years, and the state does not foresee any increase in revenues then, either. No higher tax revenues, no higher oil revenues, no repeal of tax cuts? Or are we merely being ensured that this administration refuses to spend on state services regardless of the shape of our economy?

To add insult to injury, Bobby Jindal refuses to tap into the state's 4M+ "rainy day" fund, a.k.a. the state's budget surplus. A "need" to deny services to the elderly, to mentally ill children, to those on Medicaid, and to working- and middle-class people seeking higher education does not apparently constitute "a rainy day" to Jindal.

For instructions on how to recall a governor, please see the post below.

Recall Bobby Jindal: Here's How. Alternate Title: Bobby Jindal's War on Louisiana is Over. (If you want it.)

I will be editing this post, probably several times, because I have just thoroughly read Bobby Jindal's new state budget proposal (above). Clear evidence that your government is waging war on you (and I mean "you" if you live in this state) is the psychological equivalent of a blunt force trauma. At least a short recovery period is necessary before one is able to articulate as clearly as one did prior to the assault. Therefore, a thorough, fully documented analysis of the implications of the budget, including a refutation of the argument for its draconian cuts to health care and higher education, is forthcoming.

Because I know that any regular readers of this blog already understand the implications of/ideological motivation for Jindal's budget and already see the outright lies used to justify it, I will, for now, focus on fully explaining the steps that we must now take to remove Jindal from office:

Louisiana is among 18 states with gubernatorial recall provisions, and, unlike many of the other states, Louisiana does not dictate specific conditons under which a recall can be initiated. So we are in a good position to save ourselves: if 33.3% of Louisiana's citizens who were eligible to vote in the gubernatorial election sign a recall petition within 180 days of its circulation, the recall procedure officially begins.

In most states with gubernatorial recall provisions, the required number of votes is about 25% of those in the initial election for the governor in question, so we do have a steeper climb in that regard. But if voters come to fully understand the implications of Jindal's ongoing war against state services, dating all the way back to his tenure at DHH, long before this economic crisis hit us, it's a sure bet that 33.3% will sign.

Call me a dreamer...but I'm not the only one. Let's get busy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jindal Holds the Jobless Hostage in Bid for Political Power

As the man many Republicans tout as "the new face" of the Party of No, our governor finds it necessary to fly in the face of most economists, who consider the extension of unemployment benefits the most stimulative aspect of Obama's recovery package. Jindal initially claimed that he may well refuse all aid offered from the stimulus package, but apparently coming to cursorily understand the political stakes involved in that risk, deemed it appropriate to deny funding only to the most vulnerable and least politically powerful beneficiaries: people who have lost their jobs. Those left unemployed by the failing economy (or by Jindal's decision to cut funding for state jobs in order to initiate state tax breaks last year) may be among the least likely to become formidable political enemies given the humiliation and sense of powerlessness associated with poverty, one of the greatest stressors that humans face. And targeting them to suffer in his attempt to demonstrate that the tested-and-failed conservative ideology will somehow work under his leadership aligns him with the petulant strategy of the shattered Republican Party--to cover their ears and close their eyes in the face of economic collapse, chantinmg the mantra "To the only sacred entities in the Universe, tax cuts and a shrinking public sector, we submit ourselves."

Jindal's justification for declining the funds to extend unemployment benefits is entirely lame (though mainstream media seems not to notice)--that in three years the stimulus money will be exhausted and, at that time, prolonged unemployment benefits would raise unemployment insurance on businesses. Ahem. The entire purpose of the stimulus package is to reduce unemployment and rebuild the economy, and when the stimulus funds run out in three years, Bobby Jindal can easily reduce the length of benefits in Louisiana with the warmest of support from his constituents. If he wants to get a head start on that, he can easily make it a promise now, one that he commits to writing, to be executed at the end of his first term. So if this "raising-taxes-on-bidniz" business is the only excuse that he can come up with, his real reasons must be entirely unfit for mainstream consumption.

I see two interrelated motivations here. The first is, of course, his need to polarize himself from Obama, whose success Jindal believes comes at his political detriment, even as the Party unabashedly refers to him as "the Republican Obama." What they really mean is "The Anti-Obama," but that's another post. The second is his need to maintain a Republican stronghold in the South, which is and would always have been impossible to achieve without appealing to the South's nastiest legacy: racism. I'm sorry to say that to a majority of Louisiana's white population, the term "unemployment benefit" is synonymous with "handout" or "welfare," terms they despise, even though poor whites are the greatest beneficiary of all of them. The Depression is not firmly enough entrenched at this point (and god-only-knows how long it would have to be) for this demographic to let go of the notion that Jindal is refusing money to black people, who, they believe, are solely responsible for every ill known to humanity, including the fact that they--"hardworking [white] people"--have to pay any taxes at all. Jindal is, of course, quite keen to this idea. Otherwise, why would he turn down money that results in at least a little spending power for the unemployed when accepting it would cost him nothing but perhaps some fleeting, misguided conservative accolades?

For the love of God, Bobby Jindal, will you please release your political hostages, come to the window, and show us the real new face of the Republican Party?

(Photo credit: Catholiccommunityradio)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The State Capitol on State Jobs in Higher Education and Health Care

from TP:

"It's hard to cut this beast. You have to starve this beast," House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, said of the growing job rolls. "You have to force efficiencies through tight budgeting." Getting a handle on Louisiana's payroll will take more than management adjustments, said Sally Selden, a Lynchburg College management professor who runs the Government Performance Project for the Pew Center for the States.
The "beast" of which Tucker speaks is partially comprised of the increase in state health care providers, whose numbers have finally risen in the past year in response to the devastating shortage of health care providers in the New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina.
"The reality is, you've got to make some tough choices -- about not offering some services," Selden said. "It's not just a management decision, it's a political decision. It's very painful, but it's very important."
The painful decision, it seems to me, would have been the January 2008 slashing of state taxes that now accounts for much of the current shortfall.
Scott said states across the country are using furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts to deal with the economic downturn. California is closing government buildings two days a month.

The federal stimulus package will offer relief to the ailing states, but that should be viewed as only a temporary fix, Selden said.

"Now is the time to make tough choices," Selden said. "If we don't do it now, when will we ever do it?"
Selden speaks of eliminating state services here as one would a decision about when to deal with a crystal meth addiction. From my perspective, her statement would more accurately read "if we don't lay waste to mandatory state services now, while we can make use of this shoddy bandwagon approach to convince people of the inevitability of the process, at what other time do you believe we can get away with such a devastating and perhaps irreversible blow to social services and higher education?"

Do read the entire article if you're feeling nostalgic. The attempt at "journalism" here ranks equally with those of the "journalists" and other "experts" planted by the Bush Administration. There is not a moment's reflection upon the premise that state job growth is an evil from which we must be delivered.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama's Chief of Staff...

From NYT:

is someone who once wrote in Campaign and Elections magazine that “the untainted Republican has not yet been invented” and who two years ago — according to a book about Mr. Emanuel (“The Thumpin’ ” by Naftali Bendavid) — announced to his staff that Republicans are “bad people who deserve a two-by-four upside their heads.”...

Mr. Emanuel acknowledged in an interview Friday that a stereotype of him as a relentless hothead has some factual basis. But it is an exaggerated or outdated picture, he said.

“I’m not yelling at people; I’m not jumping on tables,” he said. “That’s a campaign. Being the chief of staff of a government is different. You have different tools in your toolbox.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bobby Jindal Screws Higher Education Once Again

To: The UNO Community

From: Timothy P. Ryan, Chancellor

Date: December 15, 2008

Re: Mid-Year Budget Reduction

Earlier today, the Louisiana Legislature through the Revenue Estimating Conference accepted a shortfall in state generated revenues of $341 million this year and predicted a shortfall of $2 billion for next year. This reduction in general fund revenues is directly related to losses from sales taxes, personal income taxes, the repeal of other state taxes and declining revenues from energy markets.

[Notice that the shortfall in state-generated revenues equals, almost to the penny, Jindal's repeal of state taxes. This repeal was justified by Louisiana's budget surplus early in Jindal's tenure, yet, simultaneously, he froze all state hiring. He justified the latter by claiming that the state could face a budget shortfall of this magnitude in the future. If you can make sense of these competing claims, please let me know.]

To address the budget shortfall, all public universities, colleges, community colleges and management boards have been informed by Dr. Sally Clausen, Commissioner of Higher Education, to prepare for a mid-year budget reduction of $109 million or 7.8 percent. This reduction translates into a shortfall of $5,277,249 for the UNO campus. I was also informed this afternoon that the University will be required to submit our budget reduction plan to the LSU System by close of business tomorrow. In response, I have called an emergency meeting of all Deans and Vice Chancellors to determine how best to meet this new challenge. Although I am hopeful that UNO’s actual mid-year budget reduction will be less severe, we must however be prepared if necessary. Any cuts that we make will be strategic cuts---to prepare the University for the future in the optimum manner.

I want to assure each of you that I and my administration will continue to do everything we can to ensure UNO’s continued prosperity and growth. We will continue to work with UNO’s key legislators, the Commissioner of Higher Education, our governing boards and the Governor to mitigate the impact on UNO which, as you know, is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Let me stress, the only way we can positively influence our budget is through enrollment growth obtained through increased efforts in recruitment and retention by all members of the University community.

One positive opportunity for UNO is the newly proposed formula funding allocation, which for the first time includes factors that recognize and reward our mission as an urban university. Once fully implemented, as we regrow our student population, UNO will be eligible for an increase in funding. The inclusion of these new factors favorable to UNO was the result of a series of meetings with the Governor’s staff and members of UNO’s governing boards.

[Good luck with that.]

It may be of little consolation, but we are not alone among state funded universities facing budget reductions. Other colleges and universities across the nation are experiencing cuts including the University of Central Florida which just received a 16% budget reduction, the University of South Carolina System which just received a 14.9% budget reduction and the University of Georgia which just received a 10% percent reduction.

[It is of little consolation since I cannot help but notice that all of the states mentioned are governed by Republicans, all of whom have demonstrated an insane antipathy toward state services and public education.]

This trend, coupled with the predicted budget shortfall released today, only serves to remind us that UNO must maintain the core mission of teaching, research and public service and achieve priorities as set forth in the University’s Strategic Plan. As information becomes available about the status of UNO’s funding, I will continue to share it with you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Perhaps more naive than most, I did expect to see an African-American president elected in my lifetime. I still expect to see a woman, and I hope that she is Michelle Obama.

What I did not expect to see in my lifetime: A U.S. president whose election brought tears of joy and relief, not only to me, but to people across the world. I did not expect to see the election of a U.S. president who would restore dignity to the office he held. I did not expect to see the election of a president whom I consider brilliant in the ways that matter to me. I did not expect a president whom I consider sane. I did not expect my first choice of Democratic candidate to ever, ever win. And I did not expect that there would, in my lifetime, be any rational basis for hope for the future of this country.

The night that Bush "won" his second term, the only constructive action that I could think of was to make a CD of the "I Have A Dream" speech; MLK's speech against the war in Vietnam, which, arguably, led to his death; snippets from iconic figures ranging from Bobby Kennedy to Muhammad Ali; The Five Stairsteps' "Ooh Child," as well as every cover of the song (even the one by Cyndi Lauper); Rasputina's covers of "I Wish You Were Here" and "Hallelujah"; and every recording I could find of my beloved yoga teacher Michele Baker's Siva chants. I put the cd in the car and listened to it for six months straight. I figured I could at least dream.

Thank you, Barack Hussein Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sporadic Live Blogging of the 2008 Presidential Election

I am not an alcoholic. One and a half glasses of wine, and I'm spinning. That said, I'll keep this up until I start spinning. (You think I'm going through this "unmedicated"? I attended my first Obama rally in May 2007!)

6:13 CST: Predictions have consistently suggested that if Obama could hold a loss in Indiana to below 5 points, we'd have an extremely positive early indicator. But we cannot truly trust Indiana until Gary is counted. Gary is not counted and Obama is holding within five points.

I'm disturbed by reports of widespread voting machine malfunction in Virginia and Pennsylvania, strong Obama leads (in reality). If McCain squeaks out in either of those states, we must hit the streets. Office Depot is still open for the purchase of sticks, posterboard, and markers, just so you know. But once it closes, remember that you can still take to the streets, as I will, with your body only.

6:25 CST: At the moment, Obama is down in Virginia.

6:33 CST: Obama appears to have lost Virginia.

6:37 CST: Obama is no longer holding within five points in Indiana.

7:07 CST: I just tragically overcooked my edamame (my version of popcorn) with the bevy of states that came in at 7:00. Let me tell you, I'll be the naysayer until the end. The huge margin in Georgia for McCain and the current results in Virginia still rankle my soul. But, hey, Obama's got Pennsylvania. I'm from Florida and am thus quite skeptical about an Obama win there. We'll cross our fingers. Speaking of fingers, my edamame looks like them after about 5 hours of swimming in the ocean.

7:26 CST: Florida, you have been shameful in your electoral process for the past 160 years! Shame on you, Florida! Yes, folks, Florida has created yet another extremely confusing ballot in which absentee voters had to form an ARROW pointing to their candidate! Circles around the candidate, checks beside the candidate, and other clear indications of preference simply do not count. Florida is also comparing signatures. Ya'll: my mother registered to vote when she was 21. She has lived in the same place since then and now she is 72 YEARS OLD. Right, compare signatures. My mama had to vote by absentee ballot because she cannot stand long enough to wait in line. In addition, she put off her cataract surgery until Wednesday so that she "can see Obama win with both [her] eyes." I'm so disgusted with Florida over its continued electoral shenanigans. Florida, you are dead to me. Even if Obama wins Florida, Florida you are STILL dead to me.

7:58 CST: According to Nate Silver, if Obama came in with less than a 5% win in NH, we'd definitely have to worry about a Bradley Effect. Obama won big, so we don't. I never believed that, anyway.

8:25 CST: Obama has won Ohio! Thank every deity. Florida continues to wallow around in its own...well, we'll see. By the way, my criticism of Florida, my home state for 31 years, pales in comparison to what my criticism of Obama will be if he wins with a Democratic congress and does not put his foot to the floor. He's going to be accused of being a "socialist" no matter what he does, so he may as well be a socialist instead of the moderate conservative many of his policies suggest. Yeah, and I'm still under the one-and-a-half glass of wine limit. Just wait until later.

8:31 CST: New Mexico has gone to Obama.

8:50 CST: With victory in New Mexico, Barack Obama has won the election. He now has 200 electoral votes. California has 55, and Florida is breaking blue. Even with just California, Hawaii, and Oregon, he'd still win. But Colorado will be called soon. If I don't get back to ya'll tonight, be well. I promised I'd do an unassisted handstand in the middle of the room if this came to pass. I may enter the new era with a broken neck, but at least I'll have a fighting chance of getting health insurance in that eventuality. I have called my mother in Florida to assure her that no matter how her rogue state may have attempted to betray her, the die is cast. She said she'd believe it when she heard it on the news. Fair enough, Mama. Fair enough.

Just in Case Amorphous Funk is Your Source for Election Results: